Five things on our radar this month
1. The SOPA effect
Chalk one up for web-based activism. On January 18, approximately 13 million people participated in an online protest that saw 50,000 websites go dark during the day. An estimated three million emails were sent to US Congress during the protest by opponents of proposed anti-piracy Bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). The legislation, if enacted, would allow the US government to censor rogue websites, block access and funding, and reduce piracy of movies, TV shows and other professionally produced content. But the massive protest helped persuade US Congress to delay action and re-evaluate its next move. It was bad news for supporters of the legislation, including big Hollywood film studios, TV networks, cable companies and the chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), former Senator Chris Dodd. (He certainly didn’t help his case by making public comments that led to the creation of a petition that asked the White House to investigate Dodd for acts of bribery.) The debate is far from over, but the impact of the protest reminds us how increasingly important content rights, security and ownership have become to the entertainment business in the digital age.
2. Appisodes? Like totally!
Original content for kids is evolving fast and and tween/teen-targeted Totally Amp’d, the first original mobile app-cum-TV series from Shaftesbury Films and its digital media division Smokebomb Entertainment, is breaking new ground. Published by developer XMG Studio, the 10 “appisode” series combines live-action scripted comedy with interactive games, music and design-based activities for iOS devices. Whoa dudes, seriously.
3. Buffett backs Tesco
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is at it again. Known for rushing in where angels fear to tread, his latest bet is on embattled grocer Tesco. Buffett’s firm just increased its stake in the UK’s largest retailer from 3.21% to 5.08%. The deal went public right after Tesco forecast a flat profit for 2012/13, prompting its stock price to plummet by 19%. The question, as always seems to be the case with Buffett, is what does he know that no one else does?
While rumors are still swirling about when Apple’s iTV will materialize, other big-name CE brands like Sony got a leg up on the competition, unveiling new technology at CES that meshes TVs and mobile. Sets with voice and Kinect-like gesture recognition and apps that utilize the TV screen and smart phone or tablet at the same time were a hot trend in Vegas—looks like parents and kids have another toy to fight over.
5. Setting up shop
Disney is opening its first retail stores in China this fall. Through a robust L&M program, House of Mouse products have gained more exposure in the territory in recent years. However, while the the emerging Chinese middle class is attractive to licensing types, it hasn’t proved to be an easy sell—just ask toyco Mattel about the six-story luxury Barbie store it shuttered in Shanghai last year.